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No-Clutter Christmas | A Different Approach to Gifts for Kids


Girls open Christmas presents | Image by Shutterstock

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Let’s face it. Kids have way too many toys. Mass consumerism has led to a clutter epidemic. It may be the season of giving, but can’t we give kids an awesome Christmas without creating more clutter?

Some Dallas moms are choosing to do just that, giving fewer toys to their children while still maximizing the Christmas merriment.

A Premium Joy survey states that kids receive toys at a faster rate than they get rid of them. By the time an American child reaches 13, he will have 117 toys. However, over half of the children play with less than 15 toys out of their entire collection — that’s 13% of all their toys.

Moreover, too many toys may be detrimental to cognitive development. A 2017 study suggested that “toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively.”

Deborah MacNamara, a counselor and educator for both parents and children in Vancouver, argues that while kids need to play, they don’t need toys to do so. Without them, children “will explore their environment and examine articles that are interesting to them — from pots and pans to blocks.”

Ashley Ross is a first-grade teacher in Garland. Ross explained to The Dallas Express that she creates experiences with her three children (ages 2, 4, and 7) rather than purchasing too many toys which end up on the floor.

“We work on making memories rather than making a mess,” said Ross. Instead, Ross and her family travel the world together.

“In our house, we prefer presence rather than presents,” explained Ross. “Every birthday or Christmas, we ask, ‘What do you want to do? Where do you want to go?'”

For birthdays, Ross and her family have traveled to places like Dinosaur Valley State Park, the Texas Fairgrounds, Hawaiian Falls, or to see extended family.

Elizabeth Reta, the Dallas-area mom of two, concurred with Ross’s sentiment. Reta told The Dallas Express that she buys memberships to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science or the Dallas Zoo rather than physical toys.

Her family also likes to buy Pogo Passes. A Pogo Pass is a membership that gives the holder 12 months of free access to some of the best entertainment venues in Dallas. Each family member needs his own Pogo Pass, which costs about $100 and gives the holder of the pass access to various locations such as Hawaiian Falls Waterparks, the Fort Worth Zoo, Pump it Up, and more than 20 other venues.

The trend of minimalist toy collections extends beyond the Christmas season. Recently, no-gift birthday parties have become popular with parents.

No gift birthday parties cut down on the clutter as well as the cost. More importantly, however, some parents feel that fewer toys will instill a sense of gratitude in their children.

When asked whether her kids become jealous of others at school after hearing about the Christmas gifts that they received, Ross shrugged.

“I think making memories impacts a child much more,” she answered.

Ross said that her kids have plenty of toys, but most of them “are gifts from others.”

“If I had to get them something, it would be a puzzle — something for us to do together…rather than ‘hit-and-run’ toys,” she explained.

Many parents are familiar with so-called “hit and run” toys. In many instances, children may play with the box more than the toy itself.

Rose Henry, a former nurse specializing in creative play as therapy for medically fragile children, believes that streamlining a toy collection or rotating toys keeps kids interested in their toys for a longer duration.

“When faced with too many choices, your child becomes overwhelmed and may opt not to play in the playroom as a result,” wrote Henry in an E-zine article.

Henry believes that trendy toys and branded toys may end up stifling creativity because they encourage only one form of play.

“If you hold up an Elmo doll and ask your toddler what it is and what its name is, they will tell you it is Elmo and any activity they plan for this toy will be based on the brand,” wrote Henry. “This toy will never be anything but Elmo to your child.”

In order to avoid clutter and further childhood development, many parents choose educational toys for their children.

Mary Frances Nelson, a teacher at the Montessori Academy of Arlington told The Dallas Express that open-ended toys such as art supplies, K’nex, or blocks, are best because they allow children to explore their feelings and play in multiple ways.

Although this may mean that Santa’s bag will be a little lighter in some households, parents can still celebrate the season of giving in their own way.

This year, Ross and her family will skip the stockings and spend Christmas on a cruise instead.

We welcome and appreciate comments on The Dallas Express as part of a healthy dialogue. We do ask that you be kind. Kind to each other and to everyone else in your comments. For more information, please refer to our Complete Comment Moderation Policy.

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7 days ago

Fantastic article! Yes please let’s evolve to this. Consumerism is one root cause of dysfunction of society, in my opinion. Thank you!